The Union City police officer who shot and killed Ariston Waiters said waiting for a decision on his culpability in the incident was difficult.
“I’ve had to move my family because of threats," Officer Luther Lewis told Channel 2 Action News. “I’m separated from my job. Separated from my family.”
Lewis spoke a day after a Fulton County grand jury declined to indict him in Waiters' Dec. 14 shooting death.
Union City police officials have maintained that Lewis was justified in his actions, saying in a statement released in January that Waiters “grabbed the officer’s service weapon” as he was being handcuffed.
“The whole thing took about 30 seconds, from start to finish,” Lewis’ attorney Al Dixon told Channel 2. “Officer Lewis was in a struggle for his life.”
Police said witnesses saw Waiters fire shots into the air during a fight in the Hickory Park subdivision, prompting the call to police.
Still, Waiters' family is looking for answers and accountability. Their supporters planned a rally for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sakofa United Church of Christ, 150 James P. Brawley Drive.
"This is not the end of it," family attorney Mawuli Mel Davis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the grand jury's decision was announced late Wednesday night. "There will be a continued political and legal fight. Community activists have vowed to continue the fight for justice."
Waiters' mother, Freda Waiters wept late Wednesday as she learned the Union City police officer who shot her teenage son would not be charged, Davis said. “This officer gets to go back to work tomorrow, and Ms. Waiters will never see her son again,” he said.
Waiters’ family has led several protests, claiming that the shooting was unjust.
A Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office autopsy report showed that Waiters was shot twice in the back.
"The family is devastated," Davis said. "They’re hurt, they’re angry, they’re frustrated."
In the interview Thursday, Lewis spoke to Waiters' family when he apologized for the death.
"I’m sorry for the pain that it’s caused them," Lewis said. "I’m sorry for the pain that it caused his mother."
The GBI investigated the case and turned its findings over to the Fulton County District Attorney's public integrity unit in January. Prosecutors presented the case to the grand jury on Wednesday.
Waiters was the second 19-year-old shot and killed by police in a three-month period whose death the district attorney has looked into. The office also is investigating the case of Joetavius Stafford, shot by a MARTA police officer after an altercation in October.
Davis would not say what legal course, if any, Waiters' family wanted to take next, but he said District Attorney Paul Howard has offered his help.
"We do have a commitment from the DA’s office to provide us with the info that they gathered in the course of their investigation," Davis said. "Our firm will review it and determine how to continue."
We do have a commitment from the DA’s office to provide us with the info that they gathered in the course of their investigation. Our firm will review it and determine how to continue.
This is not the end of it. There will be continued political and legal work.